Harry at Wenlock Books
25.07.07 | ANNA DREDA
Anna Steward, Wenlock Books, writes:
Hermione is picking her nose. Another Hermione is rushing up and down the hall asking questions and jotting each answer down with a feather quill. Inpatient at not being able to buy the book yet, a third Hermione picks greedily through objects on the merchandising stand, while a fourth Hermione sits in the audience, holding the hand of a Slytherin under the table. If this was the book, Hermione would be using the Time-Turner and to be holding a slytherin's hand she would have to be under a spell.
But this is not the book; this is 300 people waiting for the book. This is Friday the 20th of July: a date that has been jotted in diaries, circled on calendars and in bold on a poster in Wenlock Books' window for months. This is the final Harry Potter launch organised by one of the UKs' leading independent bookshops. Normally shut and silent on a Friday night, the Enginuity Museum in Coalbrookdale is instead filled with music and dancing, children casting spells, and somewhere, carefully guarded, piles of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows books.
The band are coming to the last verse of an eerie song. In minutes, the opening lines of this final book will echo around the Hall. A woman, Professor Trelawney, stands on the podium, clears her throat and turns the front cover. Silence stretches the length of the hall. When it's finished, Big Ben signals the midnight chimes and the countdown begins: Twelve, eleven . . . Seven and six have a long hiss before each one. 5 and 4 seem rushed. By three people have synchronized except a stray two which gets called out too early. . . One. A pause, instructions, then a rush of children fill the stairs to the Tower of Astrology with the efficiency of London commuters.
Now, for one weekend families won't worry about the rain. Come tomorrow morning the cat will have to wait for its breakfast, the coffee can brew a little longer and the baby's bath be rescheduled until lunch. Come tomorrow morning England will lie in bed reading the words "The two men appeared out of nowhere . . ." They will want to rush forward slowly, like the dying stages of a relationship. They'll want to see how it ends, to skim read, to take one glance at the final page. Some will, while some will read slowly, look for clues, linger at the end of each page and reread the last lines. A glance around the Great Hall sees some children already leafing their way through the book, declaring they won't sleep, trying to cheat and read the ending only to be chastised by their friends.
Just as we sit down with our copy and a cocoa from the Three Broomsticks Café the brisk Hermione with the notepad bounds up again. "Have you seen Ron?" she asks. Which one? We answer. There are at least 37.